Red Lotus Repairs (Part II)

Power Wheels Repair

We made some good progress last time, but the repairs continue, and this time we got as far as a test drive!

We managed to finish the motor mount, get the chain on, repair the kill switch, and fix a wobbly wheel. We still need to get the new brakes in place, reattach the cooling fan, and see about some replacement wheels. But yes, it is running!

If all goes well we should have it ready by Minne-Faire on April 13th, 2013 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (We decided not to drive it there, but instead will put it in the back of a regular old gasoline-powered vehicle, just so the batteries are fresh when we get there. :)

Driving!

Check the video (which is a time lapse of the repairs) and you’ll see a few shots of driving it (note to self: take camera out of time lapse mode when driving!) There’s also a short bit of real-time video at the end showing a first-time guest driver taking it for a spin. (Literally!)

Red Lotus Repairs

Red Lotus Repairs

Tom and I spent some time this past weekend repairing Red Lotus, our #55 Power Wheels Car. Working with Tom is great because I end up learning a ton of new skills, like how to use an angle grinder, and the mill, and some welding tricks. These will all come in handy when the car breaks (and it will break) in the middle of a race.

Besides fixing up the car, we’ve also been building up the team, and it looks like at least two of us will try to make it to Minne-Faire in April for a bit of pre-season racing fun.

Here’s a quick time lapse video of Tom and I doing some repairs.

February Electric Car Club

Electric Car Club

Did you know that we’ve got a number of members who have built electric cars? Ben Nelson even runs 300mph.org and has published DVDs and Instructables showing you how to build your own. (Sharing of knowledge is a top priority for our members!)

If you’re interested in electric cars, come on down to Milwaukee Makerspace at 1pm on Sunday, February 10th, 2013 for the first Milwaukee Electric Car Club Meeting at our new location. Got a Tesla, or a Volt, or some DIY/converted vehicle? Bring it! Just want to learn what these electric vehicles are all about? That’s cool too!

The Milwaukee Electric Car Club: Because gasoline is so 20th century.

Power Racing Series – Detroit

Power Racing Series

Our story starts with Tom’s build of Red Lotus because he wanted to have a new car for the race at Maker Faire Detroit. Being a master craftsman, he was able to build the car in just one weekend! (Well, mostly.)

My part of the story is that I’ve never been to a real Maker Faire before, and never drove a Power Wheels car (that part is important later) so when I got to the Henry Ford Museum I stopped by the Power Racing Series track so see how the crew from Milwaukee Makerspace was doing. Shortly after that someone asked me if I could drive on Sunday. I said “sure thing!” because I’m a team player and like to help out. If only I’d known what I was in for…

PPPRS - Jason

Saturday’s races included the drag race, moxie race, and some other things. I missed some of it, but ended up helping as a track marshal for a bit. jason g. drove Red Lotus in the drag race and took 3rd place! jason still isn’t sure how that happened, but I think he’s just being modest.

Our other car (Big Jakenstein) won in the first drag race but got pulled later because of an accident due to a stuck throttle. (After some repairs we did run Big Jakenstein after all the races were completed at it was timed doing the fastest lap all weekend. That thing is a beast!)

PPPRS - Sean

On Sunday it was time for the endurance race. This is a 75 minute race with mandatory driver changes every 15 minutes. Sean started and I alternated driving with him. I should note that the first time I ever drove any Power Wheels car was about an hour before the race… So how did we do?

PPPRS - Pete

We were plagued by the chain breaking within the first 5 minutes of the endurance race which required about 10 minutes worth of repairs, which really put us back in laps. The front wheels fell off (or nearly fell off—there is still some debate about the exact degree the wheels fell off) about 1/3 into the race, but we got new wheels from Pumping Station: One, which were larger than the rear wheels, but lasted the rest of the race. Near the end of the race the throttle got a little wiggly, but we were able to complete the entire race. Besides the chain and wheel issues, Red Lotus performed quite well (in my opinion) and we managed to place 7th. I feel like if we hadn’t needed to sit out so many laps in the beginning for repairs we could have done a bit better, but major kudos to Tom for his quick repair job!

Power Racing Series - Chicago

I know you’re saying “Damn! I missed it!” But hey race fans, don’t worry… we still have the finale of the 2012 Power Racing season coming up… This Saturday night, August 4th, 2012 at Evanston Mini Maker Faire, we’ll see if Red Lotus can kick it into high gear and show ‘em Milwaukee knows how to build (and drive) a souped-up kid’s toy car.

(Oh! Be sure to check out the PPPRS video too!)

Fun with Lasers!

Just about the only thing I don’t love about the Open ReVolt motor controller is the case.

As cool as an Open Source Motor Controller is, it’s just not shown off with a basic metal cover. In fact, I actually drilled through the original cover (and put clear packaging tape over the holes!) to see the power and troubleshooting LEDs through the lid.

Recently, the Milwaukee Makerspace got itself a laser cutter. It’s not all that powerful, but more than capable for cutting plastics. One of the Makers posted a blog entry about making a wood box on the laser. He used a program called BOXMAKER which helps you layout the size of your box, including overlapping cut edges to put the whole thing together.

This got me started on the idea of building a clear plastic case for my 500 amp Open ReVolt controller. But I had never even used the laser before. I sat down with the member who owns the laser, and he took me through the basics of importing files, exporting to the laser, and modifying power and speed settings. With that, I was able to start making a few test items on the laser. I figured that since I already had the Open ReVolt logo as a vector file, it couldn’t be easier to try out etching some plastic with it.

I used the laser to make a few small test pieces on various materials. The two logos turned out pretty well. They were both etched AND cut out with the laser. On the orange medallion, I mirrored the image, so it would be a design on the “back” of the piece. That keeps the upside nice and shiny and clean.

Plastics cut on the laser

 

After practicing a bit on the laser, I started wondering what else I could cut, mark, or etch with the laser. Last night, I forgot something at the Makerspace, so I had to return there this morning to retrieve it. And I am NOT a morning person, so I had my trusty travel coffee mug with me. It’s stainless steel with an anodized dark gun metal finish to it. “I bet that would laser engrave nice!” I though to myself. Sure enough, it only took a little tinkering to figure out how to keep the mug from rolling sideways inside the laser before I could engrave it.

Also, when I came in this morning, all the lights were off, except for one – Tom’s LED lit plexiglass desk drawer. I asked him for some advice last night about how to engrave and then edge-light in clear plastic. He plugged in his project to show me a sample, and had left it on. It was eerily awesome to see the Makerspace lab lit up by green LED power! It’s a good example of how I would like to engrave the top of the controller case and light it up.

Well, that’s it for now. Next, I’ll have to take careful measurements of the controller, lay out the box, find some material to work with, and figure out where and how big the cuts in the end plates will need to be for the bus bars.

Unexpected Detour

When I arrived at the space Sunday, I had planned to work on a circuit board design in DipTrace.  After I left, I had spent six hours rewiring a golf cart.  Allow me to explain…

It all started when I went to take the trash out.  I used the golf cart with the flatbed to ferry the cans out to the dumpster.  After emptying the cans, I rode back and decided to charge the cart’s batteries.  Tom and Rich had just returned from lunch and Tom suggested we swap out batteries instead.  While swapping them out, we decided to also rewire them.  While rewiring them, part of the cart broke.  There’s a small white plate under the driver’s seat.  It’s about 4″ x 6″, likely made of asbestos, and holds a series of copper contacts that a lever attached to the gas pedal slides over to select the speed of the cart.  And it broke in two when we tried to tighten fix a wire on it.

We had a few options: try to mend the old, brittle plate, replace it with something new, rewire the whole thing, or scrap everything out for a solid state motor controller.  Not wanting to adopt a new project or sacrifice a motor controller that could be better used elsewhere, I volunteered to try and fabricate a replacement for the broken part.

First I documented everything just the way it was.  I labeled wires, took photos, scribbled down notes, etc.  Next I went about removing the broken plate.  There was probably more rust than metal on those bolts.  Then I took a pair of digital calipers and a ruler and measured the locations and sizes of holes for each component.  I considered using the CNC router or drilling a plate by hand, but the laser cutter seemed to be a much faster and precise approach.  I drew up my replacement plate in CorelDraw and found a scrap of 1/4″ acrylic that matched the size and thickness of the old plate.  After some tinkering with the printer driver and a dozen passes with the laser, I had a copy of the original in plastic form.

The next few hours were spent migrating the old parts over to the new one and wiring it back in.  Right around 7:00 PM, I tied some batteries together and the thing leaped forward.  A few more tests and it should be as good as new.  Someone suggested that maybe the plate was asbestos to avoid heating issues so we’ll keep an eye on that too.

Rotary Encoder – built into motor for Electric Car

My electric Dodge neon uses an AC motor and an industrial motor controller.  I upgraded from m 1984 motor controller to one less than 25 years old (actually less than 5.)

The new controller does much more than the old one and has the ability to do some fancy tricks.  At the moment I am running it in “sense vector” mode.  The controller senses the position of the armature by monitoring the current in the field coils.  This works great…   as long as the motor is spinning.  From a stop it tends to get out of sync, but there is a cure!

The controller can use a quaderature encoder so the encoder can read the position of the armature at any speed.

To add an encoder to the motor I decided to try a chip amde by Austrial Microsystem AS5040.  This chip senses a magnet near the chip and calculates the position of the magnet and can generate multiple output:  PWM, binary via I2C, and quadurature!

I bought a few of the chips and built a surface mount board to hold the chip and a few LEDs to display the output.  The first two version had a few problems but the 3rd time was the charm.

 

 

Thanks to Royce for working out the process for surface mount PCBs.

 

The final version had to be small enough to fit in a depression in the end of the motor cap.  The sensor centered and the whole board insulated (clear enamel)  since this is a grease pocket

for the rear motor bearing.

 

 

 

 

The magnet is mounted to a bolt that is threaded into a tapped hole in the back end of the armature.  It took a while to the position right (it needs to be within a few millimeters of the sensor) hence the nuts and washers.

 

The cable is brought out of the motor through a small threaded hole (it was an alternate location for the grease fitting.)  The hole is filled with epoxy and the wires go to a DB9 connector.   I built a small test board that shows the quadurature signals (4 round LEDs) and the status outputs from the chip (the two rectangular LEDs)

 

 

 

 

 

The motor controller puts out 15V to power an encoder and wants A and B as well as inverted A and B signals.  The circuit includes some NPN transistors along with a voltage regulator and a few capacitors to tie it all together.  I put the schematic for both the sensor and test board on one schematic so I could make both boards at the same time.

I installed it in the car today, but still need to put a few more parts together to run it.

 

 

 

DOH!

It doesn’t work!

Ok, so the electronics work fine, it talks to the controller.

But it tops out at 256 pulses per revolution and the controller needs 1024.  It was a minor confusion between terminology.  The sensor detects 1024 positions, but to generate quaderature it uses 4 positions per pulse output.

Back to the drawing board.

 

I picked up a commercial shaft encoder on ebay for 50 that outputs 1024 PPR but it only works at 5V, so I’ll need a level shifter board and connector adapter.

Oh, yea, and I need to put the motor again, take out the old encoder, bring a shaft extension through the back grease pocket, add a grease seal and couple it to the encoder.

 

 

 

 

Thursday Night Time Lapse

A time lapse video complied from the Milwaukee Makerspace CCTV system. 7 hours of video compressed into 4 minutes. All events took place between 4:30 and 11:30 PM Thursday, September 29, 2011.

Activities include:
– Rich welding
– Chris and Rich working on their electric cars
– Chris driving his electric car in and out of the shop
– Tom, Adam, and Royce working in Diptrace
– Bret, Rich, Royce, and Adam blacksmithing items with the forge
– Various people working on misc. projects and chatting
– Royce, Brant, and Adam etching and tin-plating circuit boards
– Pete working on his Makerbot 3D printer

September 27th Meeting Minutes

A total of 14 members and 1 guest attended the meeting.

BarCampMilwaukee6 is this weekend!

If you haven’t yet, go visit their website at http://barcampmilwaukee.org/

Membership Promotion

Jason proposed that we actively engage the public and recruit new members.  He volunteered to lead a small group and make contact with people at area schools and colleges.  More to come shortly.

Jumpstart Sponsorships

Rich presented an idea to sponsor people who regularly attend meetings and help out at the space, but lack the disposable income necessary for membership.  Candidates would be eligible for two or more months of part-time or student level membership.  A fund has already been set up using donations from other members.

Jason noted that PS:One and other groups offer incentives to bring in materials, clean the space, teach classes, etc. and earn points which can be redeemed for merchandise, discounted dues, and more.  More details to come.

Doorbell Project

It was noted that Shane, a regular at the space but not quite a member, was left waiting outside in the rain last Friday without anyone to let him in.  People were in the space, but did not know he was out there.  The group discussed the need for a doorbell to alert occupants to the presence of guests waiting outside.  Ross volunteered to help build a system with a bell and lights and began working shortly after the meeting.

Electric Car Club Meeting October 9th

As usual, the Electric Car Club will be meeting on the second Sunday of the month.  Tom asked for a few volunteers to come to the space and help direct any guests that attend the meeting.  People will hang out between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM with the meeting somewhere in the middle.  Tom noted that Ben is working to make the group an official chapter of the Electric Automobile Association.